Before free agency kicked in at 11:00 a.m. today, the Minnesota Wild locked up four players within the organization, re-signing goaltender Josh Harding
, defenseman Drew Bagnall
and center Jed Ortmeyer
and signing Vermont defenseman and 2006 fourth round draft pick, Kyle Medvec
to an entry level contract.
The one-year signing of Harding ends speculation as to what route the Wild would take for the backup goaltender position. Harding's signing means that Jose Theodore will hit the free agency market, and that Dennis Endras
, Matt Hackett
and Darcy Kuemper
will get some seasoning in the minors.
Harding is one of the longest tenured Wild players, having been selected by Minnesota in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and debuting in 2006. Over five seasons, Harding posted a 28-39-4 record with a 2.66 goals against average and a .915 save percentage.
"It's always great signing back with the Wild," said Harding. "It's the only organization I know and when they showed interest with the injuries and all that in the past, I was glad to take the deal."
He was primed to backup Niklas Backstrom
once again last year, but suffered a torn ACL and MCL during a preseason game in St. Louis last September. It was a devastating injury for Harding, but a full season of rehab and workouts has him ready to return.
"There were obviously days when you kind of wanted to throw in the towel," Harding admitted. "But days like this when you get signed again, you're definitely glad you didn't. The knee feels 100% and the hip feels 100% and now I'm just going to work my butt off to get in the best shape as possible and get ready for camp."
The other three signings are likely to bolster the roster of the defending AHL Western Conference champion Houston Aeros where Bagnall and Ortmeyer both played last season. However, both Bagnall and Ortmeyer saw action with the Wild last season, and Bagnall nearly made the club out of training camp last year.
The rugged defenseman was a stalwart on the Houston blueline, playing 72 regular season games and 24 playoff contests. He posted two assists in the regular season and racked up up 112 penalty minutes. He played the final two games of the season with the Wild and recorded four penalty minutes.
Ortmeyer was also an integral part of the Aeros' success. After joining the club midway through the season, he tallied six goals and 10 assists in 40 games, and then posting six goals and seven assists in 24 playoff contests. In three different stints with Minnesota, the former Michigan Wolverine played four games and registered five shots.
Finally, Medvec joins the pro ranks after completing a four-year college career at Vermont, where he posted 10 goals and 28 assists in 139 games. A former Apple Valley Eagle, Medvec is a towering figure on the ice, measuring 6-foot-6, 229 pounds. He was an assistant captain for the Catamounts and was a member of the 2008-09 Hockey East All-Academic Team and helped lead that team to the Frozen Four.